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Friday, October 06, 2006

Korean Thanksgiving


Today we went to Namsan, which is a large hill in the middle of Seoul.

What we didn't realise when we arrived in Korea is that most of the country would be closed for five days. This is the time of Chusok, or Korean Thanksgiving. People everywhere go back to their family home and give prayers to the ancestors. It is a time of celebration, with half-moon cakes and fun and games.

But unfortunately, all the transport is booked up ages in advance, and most of the shops are closed. We haven't been able to find an open bank for the past two days, so we are using atm cards instead of travellers cheques, and we are more or less restricted to Seoul.

On the other hand, there's lots to do here, as those people left in the city are enjoying their main holiday for a year. Namsan was really nice this evening, and full of happy people. They had some sort of ceremony on top, and kids got together and released a load of balloons, with little messages.

The top of the hill contains the relics of the original guard beacons which were used to warn people in Seoul about attacks - large stone structures that were filled with flammable material. Also there is "Seoul Tower"; we caught the lift to the top and looked out over miles of city. Up to then we hadn't realised that Seoul was so big, although with a population of almost ten million, in one of the highest population densities in the world, I gues it has to be big. We saw sunset over the city, and then the city lights come on, spreading out for mile in all directions.

Oh, and once again a couple of friendly Seoul-ites came to our rescue when it looked like we were struggling with how to work tickets. They came up, asked if we needed help, and advised us what to do. A very friendly city indeed.

Tomorrow, though, we see the other side of it. We are travelling to the DMZ, which is where South Korea meets North Korea, amid much tension.

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